At Great Foundations we have been doing a lot of work with parents trying to understand what they know about children’s feet, what worries them and where they access information to help them. We are currently running our parent survey (see below) and we thought it was a good time to get back in touch with the Honest Dad (@honestdad) for his views on this topic.
I can’t say I’ve ever thought too much about the development of feet before. Of course, like many things, since having a child, I’ve ended up realising that there are a lot of details in the world I didn’t pay much attention to! Now I have a (rapidly) growing and developing toddler, it feels like so much is changing. Most days, I come home from work and I swear I see a difference in behaviours and even more so, in appearance.
Something that continues to astound me is the rate at which my son’s feet are growing. It’s not just when I’m trying to get his shoes on his feet, it’s also when we do little crafty things, like paint foot prints. I can’t get over just how quickly his cute little feet are getting longer and wider…they’re still adorable, obviously.
The thing is, most parents don’t pay a lot of attention to foot development – understandably, there are a lot of other things going on (sofa jumping, clearing up, stopping complete destruction of your house) that divert your attention in other directions. Foot development is seriously important though, it isn’t just a case of do the shoes fit – it’s about so much more.
Foot development has a significant role in helping children explore and interact with their environments and therefore is such an important thing to understand. It all starts with your little one discovering their toes. They play and feel with their feet and of course movement and shuffling follows. Then, it’s the tentative first steps…and after that there is no stopping them. Parents often focus on traditional milestones – holding things, first words and of course, first steps. Quite often though, your child using their feet for sensory discovery goes unnoticed. Maybe we just think it’s playing, but in reality, it’s an important element to how your little one interacts with the world.
Children don’t need proper shoes until they’re walking on their own, so make sure you don’t interrupt their feet growing and developing. It sounds so simple but making sure that shoes and socks are the right size is of paramount importance for foot development. The bones in a baby’s toes are soft at birth.
Under the age of 5, children’s feet grow very fast, and it’s important that the bones grow correctly. Picking the right shoes is important when it comes supporting development. There is lots of information on the web and parents are encouraged to buy shoes made from natural materials. Leather, cotton or canvas are encouraged because they allow air to circulate more freely than plastic shoes which can trap moisture and make feet sweaty. These can be uncomfortable and lead to a number of issues. It sounds intuitive, but children need shoes – their feet need to be protected from the world. As parents, we sometimes forget that our baby’s fragile feet are experiencing our harsh world and although they happily run around, they need to have some protection from the ground.
Another thing to consider when it comes to shoes is the fastenings. Laces, a buckle or a Velcro fastening are good because they hold the heel in place and stop the foot slipping forward and bashing the toes. Sometimes it’s easy to put off buying new shoes, but as your child grows, you need to keep up with them. It’s such a fine (and potentially expensive) balance though. When buying new shoes, remember the heel of a shoe shouldn’t slip off when your child stands on tiptoes – if it does, the shoes are too big.
Understanding that children’s feet are constantly changing is the first step to appreciating the importance of development. Although at times feet are less visibly developing (in comparison to height or weight) making sure you are aware of what you need to be doing to ensure that your child is developing correctly can mean a lot of issues are avoided later in life.
If you are interested in sharing your views about children’s feet, please get in-touch. You can also share your views through participating in our survey. We are looking for UK-based parents of children aged 5 and under. You can find the survey here.